Work on the 2nd Tirailleurs Algériens Regiment continues and presented here is the Second Battalion, for use with the Franco-Prussian Crimean Wars armies.
To expand on my description of this units history in a previous post, in 1870 the regiment fought its most significant action at Froeschwiller on 6 August where it formed half of Lefèvre’s Brigade, Raoult’s Division, 1st Corps. On the night of 5 August the regiment, like most of the 1st Corps, camped on the heights above Woerth where it weathered a heavy rain storm. At 0640 they were rudely awakened by artillery fire from a German battery supporting a reconnaissance against Woerth and, along with the whole division, were called to arms.
Raoult's Division held the centre of the French line, with to Ducrot's Division to the left, Lartigue’s to the right and reserves to the rear, covering the five fingered ridge front of Froeschwiller as far south as the village of Elsasshausen. Colonel Suzzoni's 2nd Tirailleurs Algériens Regiment was on the left of the Division line in the Froeschwiller Wood with the 2/2nd Tirailleurs on the extreme left facing the Saw Mill on the Soulzbach stream. The battalion's left flank was unprotected, but the right was secured by Captain Wohlfrom's Mitrailleuse battery, the 9/12th. To Wohlfrom's right the 1/2nd Tirailleurs broke back at a right angle to the foot of the spur. The 3/2nd Tirailleurs extended the line up the slope of the spur through the vineyards to the crest where two battalions of Colonel Rogier's 48th Regiment, the other half of the brigade extended the line across the crest of the spur as far as the Froeschwiller-Woerth Road. The regiment was in an exposed position that jutted forward in a salient.
Clearly Suzzoni had expected a severe fight on this day because at 0700, he had ordered that each man be issued with another two packets of ammunition - an additional 24 rounds per man. The action came quickly to the Tirailleurs. At around 0930 Bavarian infantry entered the Langensoultzbach Forest and reached the southern edge, which lay some 100 yards to the left rear of 2/2nd Tirailleurs, shortly afterward. The arrival of the Bavarians on the southern edge of the Langensoultzbach Forest came as a surprise to the French infantry within the Froeschwiller Wood. The northern edge of the wood was unoccupied except for a few pickets. The 2/2nd Tirailleurs Algériens, with their left flank threatened by the arrival of the Bavarians, turned several companies to face the threat. Soon after German artillery fire from beyond Langensoultzbach soon began to fall amongst them and the battalion commander, Commandant Jodosoius, was killed. Raoult responded quickly to the threat and parts of the 8th and 13th Chasseur Battalions, 48th, 36th and 78th Regiments were rushed to bolster Suzzoni’s line.
|A not entirely accurate map of the Battle of Froeshwiller, but the insert shows the position of the Regiment in the fighting|
|Colonel Suzzoni (on the white horse in the middle distance) falls wounded in the Tirailleurs’ charge|
|The monument to the Tirailleurs Algériens|
It is interesting to note how these North African soldiers, serving on French soil for the first time, were viewed by both friend and foe. The Pastor of Froeschwiller’s observation was one of fear for the enemy. “Oh woe! fair-haired maidenhood of Germany!” he exclaimed, “where these fellow burst in, howling and lamentations will attend them”. After the fighting ended a captain of the Bavarian staff observed a gruesome sight in the form of a Bavarian soldier who appeared “crazed, red faced...as if on a hunt”. The captain soon found that the man was indeed on the hunt for any Schwarzen or “blacks” - Tirailleurs Algériens - who many Germans falsely suspected of atrocities: gouging out the eyes of the prisoners, cutting off the noses and ears of German casualties or shooting the wounded. This man took his retribution for these supposed crimes by putting the muzzle to the head of every wounded Algerian he found and blowing their brains out. Maybe his actions were a reflection of an attitude voiced later by Bismarck: “There should have been no question of making prisoners of those blacks. If I had my way every soldier who made a black man a prisoner would be placed under arrest. They are beasts of prey, and ought to be shot down.” Such a genuinely false slur on the reputation of these magnificent soldiers.